1 Samuel 31:12
All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.
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(12) And burnt them there.—This “burning the corpse” was never the custom in Israel, and was restricted to criminals convicted of a crime of the deepest dye (Leviticus 20:14). The Jews in all cases buried their dead. The Chaldee therefore interpret the words relating this act of the men of Jabesh-Gilead, in the case of Saul and the princes, as referring to the solemn burning of spices, a ceremony which was afterwards performed at the burial of some of the kings of Judah. (See 2Chronicles 16:14; 2Chronicles 21:19; Jeremiah 34:5.) But the language used in these cases is different; here it is expressly stated that “they burnt them.” The reason for their thus acting is clear. The mutilated trunks had been exposed for some days to the air, and the flesh was no doubt in a state of putrefaction. The flesh here only was burned. The bones (see next verse) were reverently and lovingly preserved, and laid to rest beneath the friendly shade of the great tamarisk tree of Jabesh.

31:8-13 The Scripture makes no mention what became of the souls of Saul and his sons, after they were dead; but of their bodies only: secret things belong not to us. It is of little consequence by what means we die, or what is done with our dead bodies. If our souls are saved, our bodies will be raised incorruptible and glorious; but not to fear His wrath, who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell, is the extreme of folly and wickedness. How useless is the respect of fellow-creatures to those who are suffering the wrath of God! While pompous funerals, grand monuments, and he praises of men, honour the memory of the deceased, the soul may be suffering in the regions of darkness and despair! Let us seek that honour which cometh from God only.burnt them - Burning was not the usual mode of sepulture among the Hebrews. But in this case from a pious desire to disguise the mutilation of the headless corpses, and exempt them from any possible future insult, the men of Jabesh burned the bodies, yet so as to preserve the bones 1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 21:12. 12. valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons—Considering that Beth-shan is an hour and a half's distance, and by a narrow upland passage, to the west of the Jordan (the whole being a journey from Jabesh-gilead of about ten miles), they must have made all haste to travel thither to carry off the headless bodies and return to their own side of the Jordan in the course of a single night.

burnt them—This was not a Hebrew custom. It was probably resorted to on this occasion to prevent all risk of the Beth-shanites coming to disinter the royal remains for further insult.

Burnt their flesh, after the manner. All the valiant men arose,.... Of the city of Jabeshgilead, fired with indignation at the Philistines' ill usage of Saul and the bodies of his sons:

and went all night; not only for secrecy, but for haste:

and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh; brought them with them thither, the Philistines either having no knowledge of it, or not daring to oppose them:

and burnt them there: that is, the flesh of them, for the bones they buried, as in 1 Samuel 31:13; and this they did, contrary to the common usage of the country, which was not to burn; but this they did, that if the Philistines should come to recover them, they would not be able to do it: though the Targum is,

"they burnt over them, as they burn over their kings there;''they made a burning for them of spices over them; or of their beds, and other household goods, as Kimchi and Ben Melech observe, though they prefer the other sense; see 2 Chronicles 16:14 perhaps the true reason might be, because they were putrid and infectious.

All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.
12. burnt them] Cremation was not a Hebrew practice, but in the present case was probably adopted to avoid the possibility of further insult to the bodies, if the Philistines should take Jabesh. The condensed account in Chronicles omits the mention of the burning.Verses 12, 13. - They burnt them. Cremation, though highly honourable among classical nations, is here mentioned for the first time in Holy Scripture, and was probably resorted to on this occasion to insure the bodies of Saul and his sons against further maltreatment, as, if buried, the Philistines might have made the attempt to get them again into their power. Some suppose that the burning of the dead was afterwards practised by the Jews, and quote in its favour 2 Chronicles 16:14; Isaiah 33:12; Jeremiah 31:40; Jeremiah 34:5; Amos 6:10, but these passages bear a different interpretation. After the exile, interment was the sole method of disposing of the dead among the Jews, and in the Talmud cremation is condemned as a heathen practice. The burial of the bones of Saul and his sons proves that their bodies here were really burnt. Under a tree. Hebrew, "under the tamarisk," the famous tree of that species at Jabesh. It was under one tamarisk that Saul commanded the massacre of the priests (1 Samuel 22:6), and now his bones are placed in rest beneath another. Perhaps the people remembered the king's fondness for trees. For the final fate of these relics see 2 Samuel 21:12-14. They fasted seven days (see Genesis 1:10). The time of mourning was thirty days for Aaron (Numbers 20:29) and for Moses (Deuteronomy 34:8). The Talmudic rule is strict mourning for seven days, less strict for the next twenty-three, in all thirty; and for a father or mother mourning was continued for a year. The fasting was mourning of the strictest kind, and proves that the people of Jabesh-Gilead honored to the utmost their deliverer.

The Philistines followed Saul, smote (i.e., put to death) his three sons (see at 1 Samuel 14:49), and fought fiercely against Saul himself. When the archers (בּקּשׁת אנשׁים is an explanatory apposition to המּורים) hit him, i.e., overtook him, he was greatly alarmed at them (יחל, from חיל or חוּל),

(Note: The lxx have adopted the rendering καὶ ἐτραυμάτισαν εἰς τὰ ὑποχόνδρια, they wounded him in the abdomen, whilst the Vulgate rendering is vulneratus est vehementer a sagittariis. In 1 Chronicles 10:3 the Sept. rendering is καὶ ἐπόνεσεν ἀπὸ τῶν τόξων, and that of the Vulgate et vulneraverunt jaculis. The translators have therefore derived יחל from חלל equals חלה, and then given a free rendering to the other words. But this rendering is overthrown by the word מאד, very, vehemently, to say nothing of the fact that the verb חלל or חלה cannot be proved to be ever used in the sense of wounding. If Saul had been so severely wounded that he could not kill himself, and therefore asked his armour-bearer to slay him, as Thenius supposes, he would not have had the strength to pierce himself with his sword when the armour-bearer refused. The further conjecture of Thenius, that the Hebrew text should be read thus, in accordance with the lxx, המּררים אל ויּחל, "he was wounded in the region of the gall," is opposed by the circumstance that ὑποχόνδρια is not the gall or region of the gall, but what is under the χόνδρος, or breast cartilage, viz., the abdomen and bowels.)

and called upon his armour-bearer to pierce him with the sword, "lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and play with me," i.e., cool their courage upon me by maltreating me. But as the armour-bearer would not do this, because he was very much afraid, since he was supposed to be answerable for the king's life, Saul inflicted death upon himself with his sword; whereupon the armour-bearer also fell upon his sword and died with his king, so that on that day Saul and this three sons and his armour-bearer all died; also "all his men" (for which we have "all his house" in the Chronicles), i.e., not all the warriors who went out with him to battle, but all the king's servants, or all the members of his house, sc., who had taken part in the battle. Neither Abner nor his son Ishbosheth was included, for the latter was not in the battle; and although the former was Saul's cousin and commander-in-chief (see 1 Samuel 14:50-51), he did not belong to his house or servants.

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